State parks across New York got a ton of traffic. In fact, it was a record-breaking year.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that the state’s parks, historic sites, campgrounds, and trails welcomed a record-breaking 77.1 million visits in 2019. The estimated attendance is up nearly three million visits from 2018, an increase of 4 percent. It reflects an overall increase of 33 percent – or more than 19 million visits annually – since the Governor took office in 2011.
“The NY Parks 2020 initiative has revitalized our State Parks and historic sites, and improved them by adding new crown jewels to the system like Shirley Chisholm Park in Brooklyn,” Governor Cuomo said. “Tourism is booming in New York and these beautiful sites are drawing visitors to all corners of the state, offering affordable opportunities for outdoor recreation and to experience our natural treasures while providing an economic boost to local communities.”
Improvements made through the Governor’s NY Parks 2020 Plan include the new Shirley Chisholm State Park in Brooklyn, which has drawn more than 110,000 visitors in its first few months of operation, upgrades at the golf course for the PGA 2019 Championship at Bethpage State Park, and renovated bathhouses and golf course improvements at Sunken Meadow State Park.
NY Parks 2020 projects in the Hudson Valley, Capital Region and elsewhere upstate included an upgraded visitors’ center at Thacher State Park, two new welcome centers at Walkway Over the Hudson State Park, groundbreaking for a new visitors’ center at Minnewaska State Park Preserve and an improved amphitheater at Saratoga Performing Arts Center at Saratoga Spa State Park.
More visitors also used parks that offered beaches or swimming pools during an extended swimming season announced by Governor Cuomo. Such facilities in the Hudson Valley and Long Island, some of which have been improved under NY Parks 2020, included Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, Lake Tiorati Beach at Harriman State Park, Rockland Lake State Park, Clarence Fahnestock State Park, Robert Moses State Park on Long Island, Sunken Meadow State Park, Lake Welch Beach at Harriman and Bear Mountain State Park.
Several State Parks golf courses also saw attendance increase, including Indian Hills Golf Course, St. Lawrence Golf Course, Mark Twain State Park and Soaring Eagles Golf Course. Approximately 600,000 rounds of golf are played at State Park golf courses each year.
Numerous state historic sites also saw increasing attendance, including Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site, Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, and Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site.
Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Erik Kulleseid said, “People are seeing our improvements and they like what they see. Our Connect Kids program continues to grow, bringing more youth to the outdoors through free learn-to-swim programs, school field trips, and overnight summer camps. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership and commitment, we continue to rejuvenate and modernize our state park system, which is helping drive tourism and its economic benefits in all parts of our state.”
Last year, attendance at State Parks campgrounds also surged to a record high of 688,369 nights, a 2.4 percent increase over the previous year’s record. Since 2011, total overnight stays at State Parks campgrounds have risen 26 percent.
Last season’s campground increase was driven in part by Governor Cuomo’s announcement that fees at more than 30 campgrounds, parks and boat launches along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River would be cut in half starting in August to encourage increased tourism in regions impacted by high water.
Since 2011, the number of campgrounds increased from 65 to 68, with total campsites available increasing from 8,379 to 8,555. The number of full-service cottages – which include amenities like power, kitchen, bath, beds, living room, and outdoor living space – jumped from 50 to 128, and cabins went from 791 to 830. In 2011, there were no yurts available at campgrounds, and now there are 18.
New York is making an historic commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. The Governor’s NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment to revitalize State Parks with $900 million in projects supported by state and private funding. The FY 2020-21 Executive Budget includes $110 million toward this initiative. New York’s network of parks and protected open spaces are the foundation of the state’s growing outdoor recreation economy.
A study of the economic impacts of State Parks by the not-for-profit group Parks & Trails New York, based on 2015-16 figures of 67 million visitors, found that drove about $4 billion in spending, supported about 45,000 jobs, and added $2.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. The study found that every dollar in state spending for parks generated about $9 in sales.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which were visited by a record 77.1 million people last year. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit www.parks.ny.gov, connect with us on Facebook, or follow on Instagram and Twitter.
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